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Laurent Koscielny ‘very hurt’ by Arsenal row – Olivier Giroud

Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny is “very hurt” by his conflict with the club, his friend and former team-mate Olivier Giroud has told the BBC.

Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud played for opposite sides in the 2019 Europa League final

Giroud’s five-and-a-half-year spell at Emirates Stadium came to an end when he was sold to Chelsea after Arsenal signed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January 2018.

The 32-year-old has won the FA Cup and Europa League with the Blues, as well as helping the side reach last season’s Carabao Cup final.

“I didn’t want to leave,” Giroud said.

“I spoke with the boss – at this time, Arsene [Wenger] – and I told him: ‘Look, gaffer, I need some game time to play at the World Cup, that’s massive for me.’

“At the end of the day, we won it, so it was very important for me to leave.

“It was tough for me, but it was amazing to sign for a club like Chelsea. It was like an improvement for me because – OK, it’s Manchester City now – but Chelsea have been the best club in England over the past 10 years.

“It was a new challenge with big motivation, big targets.”

After 19 consecutive seasons in the Champions League, Arsenal face a third year in the Europa League and are operating with a restricted budget in the transfer market as a result.

On Monday, a group of 16 prominent supporters’ groups and bloggers signed a letter calling on Gunners owner Stan Kroenke to “reinvigorate” the club.

Giroud expressed sympathy – “I can understand the fans” – and said there is perhaps a difference in mindset between his previous and current employers.

“With Arsenal it was difficult to fight for the title. We were always fighting for the Champions League places,” he said. “I won a few FA Cups and Community Shields. When you can’t win the league, winning the FA Cup is quite nice, so I’ve got amazing memories.

“Chelsea is a club where you have maybe more expectations, higher expectations. They were winning more titles these past 10 years and obviously Arsenal wants to come back to the ‘Invincibles’ days, but it’s not easy.

“I’m not going to say we are doing things better at Chelsea. We just try to be as competitive as we can, to step up and win more trophies.”

When asked if it could be a mentality issue, Giroud replied: “Maybe.

“In football, for me, it’s two-thirds of the quality you need to have. I’ve seen so many talented players – but without mental strength they can’t step up and get out of their comfort zone. Mental strength is massive in football and sport in general.”

‘We can compete for title despite transfer ban’

This summer, Chelsea triggered an option to extend Giroud’s stay at Stamford Bridge by 12 months and, despite the club being banned from signing players for two transfer windows, the France international is confident they can compete for honours under new boss Frank Lampard.

“He’s a proper Chelsea legend,” Giroud added. “As a player, he was an example for the young players and the fans. He loves the badge and the club, so I think he is the right person.

“He’s coming with big energy and we are working very hard, and in a good way.

“I think he’s got the squad to compete in the different competitions this year.

“Many young players sometimes have to go on loan to get some game time. This transfer ban gives them an opportunity to play more, show their qualities and – honestly, trust me – we’ve got plenty of young, talented players at Chelsea.

“The Champions League is very tough. We’ve got a talented squad, but it’s quite young. Everybody knows the Champions League is a lot about experience.

“We’re going to fight in every competition – but the main target will be to compete with City and Liverpool for the Premier League title.”

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